Monday, August 18, 2014

Week Zero preview

Hard to believe, but the season is here. High school football is upon us. If you didn't read these articles last year, my name is Joe Wright. This is my second year doing these high school football previews.

I have been an avid football fan my entire life. I am a James Island alum. I helped to do stats for the football team for three seasons. I have been to almost every 4A school in the area, and another of my distinctions is that I saw both Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel play. I saw Manziel play at The Citadel in an all-star game, and Clowney during his junior season at South Pointe when he tore apart James Island in the playoffs.

Now onto the preview.

The off-season has been filled with many interesting stories. Eleven new coaches are a part of the Lowcountry. Stratford, James Island, Stall, and Garrett are just some of the schools who have hired new coaches during the off-season.

Here is the full list:

Stratford Joe Marion
James Island Ike Allred
Stall Joe Bessinger
Garrett Nick Hopp
Lincoln James Graham
First Baptist Johnny Waters
Palmetto Christian Chris Shimakonis
Dorchester Academy Chris Meyers
Colleton Prep Thad Wells
St. John's Christian John McCall
Faith Christian Dale Feagin

With only so many weeks during the season, there is a premium for teams to play games during Week Zero. The custom used to be for schools to play Sertoma during this week, then start regular season play the next week. That is not the case anymore. With South Carolina 4A schools playing the longest regular season schedule of anyone in the nation for high school football (11 games), there is a need for an open week.

Seven of the eleven 4A schools in the Lowcountry are playing this week on Friday night. Smaller schools also have used the week. This preview will only include regular season games played on Week Zero. For a Sertoma preview, go here:

A good portion of the schools in the area will start this week. I will start with the smaller schools, then do a full preview of the larger school's games before I get into what I usually do next week.

All games will start at 7:30pm unless noted.

SCISA- First Baptist @ Pinewood Prep (Tuesday)- Pinewood Prep on Tuesday night, in front of Bill Murray, blew out First Baptist, 46-0. Pinewood had a 19-game losing streak prior to this blow-out, playing First Baptist, who moved to 11-man this year.

Several players excelled for Pinewood, including senior QB Lewis Vaughan, who passed for 153 yards and a TD. The TD was 96 yards to Tatum Rowland. Leslie Redden had 12 carries, 135 yards rushing for two TDs. DB/K Ryan Huiet picked off three passes and kicked four extra points.

Robert E. Lee @ Dorchester Academy- Debut of Chris Meyers as head coach in St. George. They will be hoping to improve on last year's tie for the region title.

Hilton Head Christian @ Trinity-Byrnes- Hilton Head Christian will make the long trip to the Pee Dee to face the Collegiate School in Darlington.

Estill @ Porter-Gaud- In a late scheduled game, Porter-Gaud will play a rare non private public school, with Estill coming to town on Friday night. 

Coastal Christian @ Laurens Academy- The boys from Mt. Pleasant will make a trip to Laurens to face Laurens Academy.

Patrick Henry @ W.W. King- Patrick Henry starts their season with a game at W.W. King, one of their two non-region games.

1A- Baptist Hill @ Allendale-Fairfax- For Baptist Hill, this week is amazingly one of just two trips outside of Charleston County all season. The other is Cross on Oct. 10. Being in a new region with other Charleston County schools will boost attendance for this school.

Burke @ Garrett (Saturday)- In the traditional Saturday night game on the first week of the season, Burke and Garrett will battle for supremacy. Burke has moved down to 1A this year, and hopes to have more success in their new class. Garrett's new coach, Nick Hopp, will start in this one. Last year, Garrett made it to the second round of playoffs before succumbing to Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

Academic Magnet @ Lincoln (Saturday)- James Graham will start his Lincoln career Saturday night in McClellanville. Academic Magnet and Coach Walpole hope to improve on a 3-7 mark last year, as the Raptors missed the playoffs in a rebuilding year.

St. John's @ Screven County (GA) (Saturday)- St. John's will make a long trip to Sylvania, Georgia, but it is really not as long as you think. Coach Brad Bowles has made St. John's look more like a big time school with his experience at Goose Creek, including names on the uniforms. Screven County plays in Class 2A in Georgia, and finished 5-6 last year.

2A- Andrews @ Waccamaw- The two Georgetown County schools will do battle Friday night as each hopes to improve from a year ago. Andrews and Waccamaw both made the second round of playoffs last year before losing to Bishop England and Lake Marion respectively.

3A- Georgetown @ Conway- Georgetown, with a lot of underclassmen this season, will hope to improve on last year's 5-5 record, missing the playoffs. They start off by playing one of the Grand Strand's two 4A schools, Conway.

Johnsonville @ Berkeley (WTUA 106.1 FM)- Berkeley hosts an opponent from the Pee Dee in their first regular season game. Jeff Cruce is feeling the heat again this year as Stag fans expect a lot of their football team. Last year, the Stags finished 5-6, getting blown out in the first round of the playoffs by Myrtle Beach.

Lewis Lineburger of Johnsonville is one of the most experienced coaches in the state; he is now in the South Carolina Coaches Hall of Fame. Last year, they finished 8-3. Johnsonville moves up to 2A while Berkeley stays in 3A. Berkeley is led by QB Joseph Dress, while Johnsonville has a 6-6, 345 pound lineman in Shaq Crouch who has been offered by East Carolina and looked at by Clemson and South Carolina.

James Island @ Hanahan (extended preview as one of Games of Week)

Ridgeland-Hardeeville @ Hilton Head- Hilton Head starts the season playing close-by Ridgeland-Hardeeville, who has been a fixture in Bishop England's 2A region. Hilton Head has a smaller roster this year, and starts off with two home games before a brutal four-week road stretch.

Orangeburg-Wilkinson @ Edisto- O-W travels to Cordova to play Edisto. O-W made the playoffs last year, but lost in the first round. They went a perfect 5-0 on the road last season.

4A- Colleton County @ Cane Bay- This game will be a very interesting one between two up-and-coming coaches, Russell Zehr and Chris Collins. Colleton County broke their long losing streak last year, and looked much more competitive in 2013 than in previous years. They have a chance to make some noise with their early schedule.

Cane Bay on the other hand finished 0-11 last year, and are on a twelve game losing streak, not having won since November 2, 2012 at West Ashley. They are hoping to improve this season, as they still have some good players, such as LB Matt Rudy. The winner of this will get some momentum in the early season.

Woodland @ Ashley Ridge- This is a very sneaky game for Ashley Ridge. Woodland may even be a favorite in this one, as they have one of the best players in the state, regardless of classification. DE Michael Barnett is a Florida State commit, and plays both sides of the ball for Woodland. His defensive prowess is what has made him a major prospect.

QB Steven Duncan, on the other hand, for Ashley Ridge, transferred in from Porter-Gaud, where he was the starting QB last year, throwing thirty touchdowns and passing for more than three thousand yards. He is only a junior, meaning he has more time to improve for Ashley Ridge, who needs it as they play in tough Region 8-4A.

Battery Creek @ Bluffton- Bluffton plays one of their required games against Beaufort County competition as they face a improving Battery Creek side. Bluffton had their toughest season last year, finishing 6-5 and missing the playoffs. They hope to improve on that record this season.

Fort Dorchester @ South Florence- You never know what to expect from Fort Dorchester. The Patriots will open up at South Florence, who finished 12-1 last year before losing to Jacob Park and Stratford. South Florence is one of the top teams in the state this season, starting at #5 in the 4A rankings. Fort Dorchester has DT Eurndaurus Bryant, who at 335 pounds not only plays defensive tackle, but also a little bit of fullback in short-yardage situations. He is getting looks from many major schools.

The Patriots also have freshman QB Dakereon Joyner, someone who we will be talking about for the next several years. He has already gotten an offer from South Carolina before playing a high school down. They hope to improve on a first-round playoff exit last year to Dutch Fork.

Games of the Week

James Island @ Hanahan (MyTV Charleston)- James Island and Hanahan were region rivals for the past two seasons. Hanahan beat JI in both football games, as they controlled the region the last two seasons. Hanahan will replace QB Mason Schwerzler, but they still have several players who are some of the best in their region. Junior DT Dominique Green, sophomore WR Sam Denmark, and senior DB DeAndrea Thompson all return for the Hawks, who finished 11-1 last year but lost to Marlboro County in the playoffs.

The Trojans, on the other hand, hired a new coach in the off-season, from Chesterfield. His name is Ike Allred. He is from Newberry College, and has helped to change the culture on the island. Allred hired an almost entirely new coaching staff. Expect the Trojans to play more of a no-huddle style this year. The Trojans finished 2-8 last season, and are the only school to move up from 3A to the largest level, 4A in the area. They still have several pieces from last year, including WR Tre'Von Grant.

With the contrast in passing styles (Hanahan mostly pro-style, James Island a question mark), this will be an interesting game to watch.

Summerville @ Providence (NC) (7:00pm, 98.9 FM)- Usually, this game between two top powers in the Carolinas would be the game of the week in the Carolinas. This week though, with Byrnes and Northwestern playing at District Three Stadium in Rock Hill, it isn't even the best game in the Charlotte area.

John McKissick needs no introduction if you follow SC high school football. He has been the coach at Summerville longer than most of us have been alive. He has won 613 games in his career, leading the nation in wins for football coaches. He has been head football coach at Summerville since 1952.

McKissick may have one of his best teams in years this year. Last year, they unexpectedly made it to the state semi-finals, and had a two TD lead in the fourth quarter against Sumter before the Gamecocks came back; a 95-yard TD drive beat them by one point.

QB Sawyer Bridges is a year older (a Clemson baseball commit), and he has several great players around him. Zack Bailey, a lineman who moved from the state of Washington, is a South Carolina commit; and one of the best players in the area. Mac McCurry and Kewaun Cox lead one of the best defenses in the area.

Providence High, on the other hand, had their most wins since 2006 last season, at 8-5. Providence is being talked about as one of the best teams in the Charlotte area this season, and are led by QB Caleb York. Providence looks to run a very high-tempo game, as their coach, Justin Hardin, focuses on playing tough competition. This game will be a great one.

Enjoy the football!